GOP bill would overhaul consumer agency

Republicans are ramping up their efforts to restructure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), saying that the agency lacks transparency needed to regulate the financial industry.

Rep. Randy NeugebauerRandy NeugebauerPrice-fixing debit card fees hurts free markets, but two members of Congress want to bring It back Durbin amendment is a failure for customers: Repeal the merchant markup Overnight Finance: GOP's budget 'SWAT' team | What to watch at IRS impeachment hearing | Sanders bucks Dem leaders on Puerto Rico bill MORE (R-Texas) announced plans to introduce legislation this week that would replace the agency’s director position with a bipartisan, five-member commission appointed by the president.

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"I remain concerned that many bureau actions demonstrate a regulatory paternalism that assumes the American consumer doesn’t know how to make choices for themselves," Neugebauer said at the hearing. "It is a dangerous scenario when government bureaucrats start making financial choices for people. 

Neugebauer noted in remarks at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Tuesday regarding the CFPB that Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAl Franken says he would be Clinton's vice president if asked Why Elizabeth Warren shouldn't be Clinton's VP pick The Trail 2016: Berning embers MORE (D-Mass.), the agency’s chief architect, and President Obama originally favored a commission as opposed to a single director.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) told The Hill that the proposal illustrated how Republicans are "taking their strategy from Wall Street."

"This is just the latest measure advanced by Republicans on this Committee to undermine the CFPB’s ability to protect consumers from deceptive marketing, unlawful debt collection, lending discrimination, illegal fees, and other unscrupulous activity," Waters told The Hill. 

Waters said that "by eliminating the position of director in favor of a commission, the proposal would weaken CFPB’s ability to be an effective, independent advocate for consumers and likely hamper any efforts by the agency to quickly respond to industry and consumer concerns.”

Warren spokeswoman Lacey Rose said in a statement that "Senator Warren strongly supports the single director model at the CFPB."

Rose said the current model "has worked very well" to "put in place strong and effective rules to help level the playing field for consumers." Rose noted that the agency has returned $5 billion to American taxpayers.

Republicans argue that the agency has stifled economic growth from too many regulations. Democrats have raised concerns that a commission would politicize the agency and reduce its power.

“Some of my Democratic colleagues will allege that Republicans want to get rid of the CFPB," Neugebauer said at the hearing. "I look back over the last five years and see a field of proposals to restructure the CFPB — not get rid of it."

Waters said at the hearing that the proposal would "destabilize CFPB's leadership."

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) offered support for the proposal, which failed to gain traction when Democrats controlled the upper chamber in the last Congress

"The bureau regrettably remains unaccountable to the American people," Hensarling said. "That is why we need the CFPB on budget and led by a bipartisan commission; mere testimony is not the equivalent to accountability."

This story was updated at 7:03 p.m.